The Plain, Simple Review of the Year: Part One – Top Ten TV of 2019

The end of the year and the decade is upon us, dear readers, and that means that it’s time to celebrate the best TV shows and films that 2019 gifted us. Today will honour the best of the small screen while tomorrow, on New Year’s Eve as always, will examine the year in film.

2019 brought us so many acclaimed TV shows but with so many out there, it’s of course nigh on impossible to catch up on every single one of them while also keeping up with all the best films, so maybe I haven’t seen as many shows as some other people (I’m definitely no binge watcher) but I did manage to watch 37 new shows as well as 4 from last year and a few “older” series such as Seinfeld and the US Office (all 9 seasons of both!), and I FINALLY watched the first series of Game of Thrones. And although some of them weren’t perfect, I did manage to watch some pretty amazing new shows – some of them actually being superior to most of the films of this year, to tell you the truth!

So here are the TV shows that reigned supreme in 2019, in my opinion:

(A quick note, though: I saw last year’s The Haunting of Hill House and the second series of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel early this year and, had they been eligible for this 2019 list, they would definitely have been included. Especially the latter as it was one of the greatest shows that I’ve seen in a good long while)

10. Sex Education (Series One)

Although it takes place in the most weirdly Americanised British school you’d ever expect to see, the first outing for this Netflix comedy series was a breath of fresh air – a funny and often outrageous series with a solid group of characters who are treated with admirable development over the course of the series, and plenty of strong writing, something that’s sometimes hard to find in a raunchy comedy series! A funny, absorbing show that you can easily and happily breeze through – roll on series two and the return of Gillian “Milfburn” Anderson!

9. Years and Years

I would have missed this show completely had it not been recommended to me, so it goes to show just how many superb shows can pass you by without you even knowing it. Anyway, for the most part, this BBC series is absolutely TERRIFYING as it prophesies just what will happen to the world within the next few years, predicting entirely plausible global events and showing how it can have extreme consequences on the average family, though it does have its lighter moments and plenty of hopeful messages included. It has an impressive cast, chilling music, and a character betrayal that will shock and rock you to your core.

8. The Virtues

Another one that I would have missed out on had it not been recommended to me, this short Channel 4 series showcases just how amazing an actor Stephen Graham is (when he’s not busy being the worst film character in Hellboy, that is) and he brilliantly carries this story about a man who goes back to his hometown in Ireland and finds himself haunted by a terrible childhood incident. Graham is exceptional, as are a few members of the supporting cast, the story is compellingly brilliant, and it’s all very well constructed, managing to pack a punch and have a big emotional impact on its viewers.

7. GLOW (Series Three)

Although it regrettably dials down the wrestling, Netflix’s colourful and entertaining series continues to excite and impress with its imaginative, thoughtful and increasingly relevant storylines that give so many characters something worthwhile to contribute, as well as the chance to flesh out their characters even further, and the series continues to show off plenty of colourful design – giving us a whole new Las Vegas location for the characters to play around in – as well as a great soundtrack and a really, really fun cast.

6. Stranger Things (Series Three)

Not quite as good as the first series but a step up from the second, the third season of Netflix’s hugely popular show treats us to a really exciting, epic story that’s full of enticing turns, pop culture references, and really fun character combinations (Dustin, Steve, Robin and Erica for the win!); we also get a wonderful new location in the expansive, colourful mall and a wonderful finale that surely must’ve encouraged many of us to (re)watch The Neverending Story. I sure did.

5. Locked Up (Series Three)

The shortest series so far, the third season of the dramatic Spanish show isn’t as memorable as its predecessors but it’s still one of the most thrilling, unpredictable and genuinely exciting drama series of recent memory and as it moves our characters to a whole new location, it introduces plenty of intriguing new characters and shows off plenty of thrills and dark moments that make it such gripping viewing. And with so many characters apparently killed off, I will of course be eagerly anticipating the next series.

4. After Life (Series One)

Ricky Gervais’ Netflix comedy series is one of the funnier shows that I’ve seen this year, it being infused with Gervais’ own brand of edgy, unfiltered comedy, but it is also remarkably emotional and throughout its six episode run (easily binge watchable), it constantly balances the humour with the more touching material that compassionately deals with grief and loss, resulting in an all round entertaining series that’s both hilarious and emotionally affecting. I’m not sure where season two will head off to, but I’ll certainly be checking back in.

3. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Series Three)

While not quite on par with the extraordinary second series, this is nonetheless another fabulous outing for the Golden Globe and Emmy award winning Amazon original as it continues to show off so much sharp, funny, incredible writing, beautiful production values, camerawork that flows and glides so wonderfully, and continually endearing and very well written characters that are given life by its colourful cast, in particular the incomparable Alex Borstein, whose character Susie shows great depth and development this time around, and the amazing Rachel Brosnahan who plays the titular role with so much zeal, energy, passion and humour, but who also steals the show in the more emotionally charged moments. Hats (of which there are a TON of in this show!) off to the brilliant work achieved by writers/directors Amy and Daniel Sherman-Palladino.

2. When They See Us

Ava DuVernay’s four part miniseries, telling the true story of five young boys who were wrongly convicted of assaulting a woman in Central Park, is incredibly powerful and will really get you angry at the flawed justice system in America and how the innocent young boys are bullied and tricked into confessing to something they didn’t do; the episodes have a clear structure (the incident, the trial, the aftermath, prison), the writing works so well, it’s expertly and passionately directed, and the cast is amazing – especially the Golden Globe winning Jharrel Jerome who shines brightly in the final nail biting episode.

1. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Sort of like a Muppet Game of Thrones, if you will (minus the really naughty stuff, obviously) this gem (or is that “Jem”?!) from Jim Henson Studios is an absolutely fantastic fantasy adventure that stays faithful to the original ’80s film while also taking it in a whole new direction and expanding the story in a miraculous fashion – telling the tale of the Gelfling, the Skeksis, and all of the other creatures that inhabit the land of Thra – and overall, the storyline is exciting and very creatively thought up by the talented team of writers, being especially amazing because while it can be lighthearted and adventurous a lot of the time, events often take a dark turn and certain sequences, much like in the original film, can be surprisingly scary and incredibly bold. It’s so imaginative, the score is wonderful, the big name cast is super, the creatures are astounding (a cute Podling called Hup, anyone?), the characters are the best, the puppetry is nothing short of masterful, and the design of the expansive world, painstakingly constructed by the best in the business, is absolutely out of this world.

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So Netflix’s outstanding fantasy series can enjoy its well earned victory over all other small screen offerings, but what 2019 films did I deem to be the best of the best? Tune in tomorrow to find out. Yeah, I know – just how will you sleep tonight, right?!